Tuesday, December 30, 1997


A reaction can be defined as the act of energy changing form.

Monday, December 29, 1997

Obstacles to capitalism

There are, as I see it, two obstacles to the perfect capitalism—that is, where quality wins. First is lack of access and open information. This creates situations where low quality wins, merely because people don't know about, or can't get access to (often because the low-quality businesses have tried to block that access & information, or override it with noise) higher quality products.
Second is the shortsightedness of man. This is why Standard Oil did so well; even though people must have known what could happen, they didn't believe it would, or didn't think they could make a difference, and went to the cheaper place and let the older places go out of business. There are other effects, as well, but mostly along these lines. This is primarily a cultural thing.

Update: 7/9/2007: I’m not really going through my journal entries to comment on them at the moment; I’m just republishing them on my blog. But I can’t let this one sit. I wrote this long before I had an Economics education, and it’s not bad. The first part I definitely still agree with; information access is a major economic problem creating many disequilibria. But I’m not so sure about the second. The problem that was obviously foremost in my thoughts when I wrote this was the Apple/Microsoft problem. But first, that may not be as big an economic problem as I had thought, however I may dislike the outcome. Peter Klein has some interesting insights on this subject. Second, the Standard Oil case I refer to—where Standard would come into a small town across from a local gas station, drop their prices, drive the local station out of business, and then hike up their prices higher than the local station’s ever were—is apparently apocryphal. So much for high school History class. Third, I now think that the other major obstacle to a properly working capitalism (besides artificial constraints imposed by government) is externality problems (a topic that deserves its own long post, so I won’t elaborate here).

Automatic hyperlinks

Automatic Hyperlinks! here's what the Web should be like; it’s the next step toward Originist. Write a browser where you can select any block of text (even links, although they still also behave normally too) and turn it into a hyperlink. You would have three default options (possibly in a pop-up menu): One would give you definitions of the words and/or phrase you selected; another would (try to) take you to the most definitive link on the subject—say, for instance, you select “Apple Computer.” This option would take you to Apple’s homepage. If there were no clear definitive link for the subject, it would take you to: Option three, the list of links. This would require a much-better-than-current search engine, which would list links by relevance, with definitive links on top, then indices on the subject, or perhaps before those, dictionary entries, encyclopedia entries, and history of… links, both for the words and the concept, then lists of books, articles, etc.; then, maybe, a list of actual pages by appropriateness, only one page per site, and not based on how many times those words appear on a page, but whether they appear in the title or any descriptions of the page, etc. This part will be lots of work. But what about pictures, or just things people think of & want to know while browsing? There must be a way to type things in. All of this is presumably working toward the Originist. Money? Plug-ins?


• Intellect is an emotion. You know what is right because it feels right, because it makes sense, because all of the pieces of that particular puzzle in your head fit in places that feel appropriate, that feel right. People consider intellect as part of the consciousness, the ego. It is not. Only the choosing mechanism itself, that calls on and decides to use the intellect, is that.
• Your mind will come up with answers—or at least with questions—on its own, if you encourage and let it. Lots of them. Don't worry about why—it just does! You are not your intellect. You are only your memories and thoughts. All the ideas and emotions come from somewhere deeper. You don't need to know how it works to use it, and in fact if you insist on knowing how it works before you use it, you'll never find out, because you'll have no means to find the answer! Exactly why this should be true I am still unsure of as yet, but I am sure it's true.

• Make sense of everything. This does not necessarily contradict the above. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it doesn't make intuitive, gut sense to you.
• Every piece of knowledge that you encounter, either take in and understand, or admit you don't understand it and put it aside. Never allow yourself to partially understand something, taking it in and making it your own without comprehending it fully. Understanding your own emotions is the first, most important key to this.
        This is what I did with Ayn Rand. I allowed her to convince me that what she said was right, to believe it was right, without fully understanding why each thing she said was right.
        You will never succeed until you understand what you know, and as you get new data, understand that, and integrate it into who you are. This is the key.


If you have nothing worth dying for, you have nothing worth living for.

Virtual Mode

• p. 231: “I am capable of interpreting your commands and questions and verifying your actual intent when you misspeak yourself or are vague.”
        Cat is incredible. Every great leader needs an intellectual manservant of this nature. The three are ultimately perfect companions for any man with great things to accomplish. These are three roles which would be highly difficult to integrate into less than three individuals.


The opposite of wrong is not right; it is another wrong. Right lies between extremes of wrong.


A law must be obeyable, enforceable, and should never remove the right to strive for life, liberty or property. You can take away these things, but not the right to fight for them. Penalties for noncompliance must be real and limited, so that if a person is willing to pay the consequences, he is welcome to break the law. The purpose of law is to ensure the maximum personal freedom of all subject to that law. Morality is not set by law.


Most people only want to worry about whether they’re doing their job well, not how much money they’re going to make. To put it another way: People want to focus on providing or creating value, not what reward they will get for it. Let them. Institute systems which reward hard work, dedication and value, not grubbing for money or jockeying for position. The greatest reward should go to those who provide the greatest value. Although it is every person’s job to look out for themselves, and no papa-knows-best system should presume to usurp that duty, nevertheless a person should not have to think much about it; they should just receive what they’ve earned. In other words, the honest man should not have to worry about unjust treatment. He should be on his guard and be able to protect himself, of course, since no system with any freedom in it can be perfect in that way, but when the upstanding members of a society (without whom there would be no society) band together to create the rules which govern them, they should be intelligent enough to achieve their goals, while being flexible enough to change them if they are incomplete or wrong, but only then. Our present systems fall somewhat short of this mark.

Four Factors II

• To continue on the Four Factors: Moreover, in the context of a single battle, the Four main Factors can overcome any subfactors.
• I’m considering adding a fifth: Mobility. For if your enemy can move and you cannot, you are dead and none of the other Four Factors can help you. I’m considering a separate category because mobility is not solely dependent on equipment.


With history, it is not always so important to ascertain what did happen so much as what could have happened; what fits in with all the evidence and makes sense. After all, that is the prime purpose of history: to learn from the achievements and mistakes of the past and to see how we got to where we are.

Four Factors

Sun-tzu has five factors; I have four. (In no particular order…yet): Training (including motivation & discipline), Equipment (including mobility & supply), Tactics (including intelligence & communications), and men (sheer combat power: numbers, strength & readiness; i.e. condition).
        These are the four factors a leader must concern himself with; ignoring any one of these can cost him the battle. No three of these factors can completely make up for a lack in the fourth.

Five Pillars

These are the five pillars: Deep thinking, slow living, exposure to new things and experiences, understanding your emotions, and keeping your surroundings understandable (i.e. calm) and stimulating (i.e. interesting and beautiful).

Atheism: The Case Against God (Part 2)

  • p. 29: “What is the theist attempting to establish the existence of?” He isn’t. He’s not. He won’t. It is not the conclusion of the theist that God exists, it is his premise. It’s a given. It’s the basis of all he believes, put there by non-rational means. He is not searching for truth, he is not willing to accept any contradictions to his beliefs, unless the emotional contradictions become too overwhelming to ignore.
  • p. 30: “Even if it is demanded that the existence of god be accepted on faith, we must still know what it is that we are required to have faith in.” Not true. You must have faith now, in whatever I tell you, now or later.
  • p. 31: “…to state that ‘god exists’ is to communicate nothing at all; it is as if nothing has been said.” Dammit, stop talking as if the religionists were rational. They’re not, almost by definition. You will understand nothing about religion until you accept this. You believe what you’re told to believe, because you have been told to believe it, because you’re evil if you don’t. This works because man, while capable of rationality, is not inherently rational. Pure rationality is often not as good a survival tactic as doing what you’re told. Religion is there to ensure that a person’s rational, selfish tendencies are quashed in favor of behavior that benefits the community as a whole.
  • p. 32: “and it is instructive to note that, historically, more blood has been spilled in religious wars between theists of different persuasions than between theists and atheists.”
    • Have there been any wars between theists and non-theists before the communists? More to the point, did there exist a group of atheists large enough to wage war? Until the advent of science, atheism, in my view, was not a tenable stance.
  • I’m beginning to regard this guy as either an idiot or as blindly attached to his beliefs as the religionists are to theirs. Obviously, someone who believes in the deity of Earth or Nature believes these things to be living, intelligent entities capable of deliberately affecting the world we live in and the lives of believers and/or nonbelievers. I’m sorry, but that qualifies as a god for me.
  • p. 36–7: “To further illustrate the importance of the supernatural or transcendental element in theism, consider the following hypothetical situation. In another solar system, we discover an alien form of life, a form which is superior to man in all respects. These advanced creatures have an immense life span, superior strength, agility and mobility, and a superior capacity for memory and abstract thought. Does it follow, in virtue of these superior capacities, that these creatures should be designated as gods? No. Because despite the superiority of these creatures in relation to man, they are nevertheless bound by the natural laws of the universe. They are subject to the same physical and logical laws as man. If we did choose to call these beings ‘gods,’ this would mean that any creature who is superior to another creature thereby becomes a ‘god’—which would clearly lead to a chain of absurdities. A dog would be a god with respect to a plant. A man would be a god with respect to lower life forms. A genius would be a god in relation to a man of average intelligence, who would himself be a god when compared to a moron. These uses of ‘god’ may have a place as poetic metaphors, but they are chaotic nonsense if employed philosophically.”
    • Look: Probably the best overall definition of a god is a being of such transcendent power that we as humans cannot touch that power, and they can dispose of us as they will, with only the interference of other gods to stop them. The ancients, when they created these gods, had no inkling that they were violating physical laws—would probably not have created gods that could do the impossible. Godhood is about power levels and creation—that’s all.

And at that I stop reading, at least for now. For if he doesn’t realize the truth of what I’ve said above, I don’t see what value the rest of his work can have.


Desire comes from inside. The specific manifestation of these desires is molded by experience, but the basic desires themselves are inborn. This is the starting point of all human activity.


Accuracy, always accuracy; what else is important?


1/04/2008 9:09 PM

This one requires a little explaining.                                                                           

Why is this important? Why is it significant?                                                                     

Because it's probably the most important thing I've ever said.                                                                           

Pursued vigorously and diligently, this one principle will lead to the entirety of my philosophical and belief structure; will lead to the fundament of everything I'm trying to accomplish.                                                                           

Note that I didn't say precision; this isn't about carrying out your calculations to as many decimal places as possible. This is about making sure everything you believe and understand is accurate, that is, correct and true to the absolute best of your ability and belief.                                                                           

If nothing else I've ever written survives, this one sentence, properly understood, will make up for all the rest.                                                                                                                                          


As long as there are people that know things worth knowing that you don’t know; as long as there are creations you are not tired of that you could not easily better; as long as there are ideas which have not occurred to you that you can discover; as long as there is beauty in the world that you do not fully comprehend, the person of wonder has fuel to continue, and to remain innocent.

Sunday, December 28, 1997

Atheism: The Case Against God


(I got sick of Art of War)

  • p. 9–10: “Properly considered, agnosticism is not a third alternative to theism and atheism because it is concerned with a different aspect of religious belief. Theism and atheism refer to the presence of absence of belief in a god; agnosticism refers to the impossibility of knowledge with regard to a god or supernatural being.”
    • I disagree strongly with his presumption that agnosticism necessarily indicates that God or the existence of god is unknowable. I think that many agnostics (myself included, in the past) would disagree with this presumption, and say that it can only mean that it is unknown—by anyone, or merely by them. His definition of atheism as including most agnostics is good, but there is no reason for everyone to accept it. I see no reason why three divisions work any less well than two.
  • p. 11:

“Whether this account represents the exact position of Thomas Huxley is not entirely clear. At times, as we have seen, he seems to indicate that the existence of the supernatural, while possible, is unknowable. Elsewhere, however, he writes that “I do not very much care to speak of anything as ‘unknowable.’” And in summarizing the fundamentals of agnosticism, Huxley does not refer to anything as unknowable or “insoluble.”

…it is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what Agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to Agnosticism.…the application of the principle results in the denial of, or the suspension of judgment concerning, a number of propositions respecting which our contemporary ecclesiastical “gnostics” profess entire certainty.

This passage suggests that, in Huxley’s opinion, there is not sufficient evidence to justify the belief in a god, so one should suspend judgment on this matter. In discussing whether the existence of a god is unknowable in principle or simply unknown at the present time, he writes:

What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by anyone else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case.

Huxley is reluctant to uphold the absolute unknowability of the supernatural, and he wishes to maintain instead that, as far as be knows, knowledge of the supernatural lies beyond the power of man's faculties. It would not be stretching the point to say that, in Huxley’s view, the knowability of the supernatural is itself an issue which is unknowable.”

    • How odd—I understand completely what Huxley is saying. He believes that the truth in this matter is unknown, not unknowable, but that the problem may just be beyond human capacity to solve. But this does not equate to the truth being theoretically unknowable; merely that we may not have the ability, as humans, to find and understand it. The concept focuses on the limitations of humans, not of the Universe.        In fact, I cannot argue with Huxley’s position. Do I, can I, know for sure that there is no god or God? No. Neither can I know with certainty that fairies do not exist, or that alien abductions do not regularly take place, or that white mice don’t secretly run the world. I merely know that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that these things are real, and that there is significant evidence against these ideas. In fact, the only real evidence for Christianity is that so many people believe in it. If not for that, it could easily be dismissed as foolishness.
  • He is (p. 11, e.g.) being ’way too pedantic and repetitive. I’ve got it already. This is a trap I could easily fall into in my writing, as I do in my speaking. Bᴇ ᴄᴀʀᴇғᴜʟ! Have others read it to make sure.
  • Rule: Don’t fuck with other people’s definitions unless you have a damned good reason. On page 13 [–14: “Atheism may be divided into two broad categories: implicit and explicit. (a) Implicit atheism is the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it. (b) Explicit atheism is the absence of theistic belief due to a conscious rejection of it. (a) An implicit atheist is a person who does not believe in a god, but who has not explicitly rejected or denied the truth of theism.”], he divides atheism into implicit and explicit. Implicit atheism is identical to traditional agnosticism! He’d better have a damned good reason for changing the splits around like this.
    • 7/11/2013 3:05 PM (quote continued from above) “For example, a person who has no knowledge of theistic belief does not believe in a god, nor does he deny the existence of such a being. Denial presupposes something to deny, and one cannot deny the truth of theism without first knowing what theism is. Man is not born with innate knowledge of the supernatural; until he is introduced to this idea or thinks of it himself, he is unable to affirm or deny its truth—or even to “suspend” his judgment.        “This person poses a problem for the traditional classifications. He does not believe in a god, so he is not a theist. He does not reject the existence of a god, so, according to this meaning which is commonly attached to atheism, he is not an atheist. Nor does this person state that the existence of a supernatural being is unknown or unknowable, so he is not an agnostic. The failure of the traditional labels to include this possibility indicates their lack of comprehensiveness.”
      • No, it indicates the author’s insistence on changing traditional definitions then imposing them on others. Such a person would traditionally be considered an agnostic, and by the sense of the word—a gnostic; one who doesn’t know—(odd that he uses the literal definition of “atheist,” but refuses to do so with “agnostic”), that would be true. Someone who denies that knowledge of god is possible could be called a strong agnostic. This changing definitions, pretending others were using the new definitions when they wrote, and then accusing them of thereby not making sense is absolutely maddening.
  • p. 14: “As defined in this chapter, the man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist. Since these instances of nonbelief are not the result of conscious rejection, they are best designated as implicit atheism.”
    • I’m really not sure I agree with all this. These are all definitions, and therefore arbitrary, but 1) it could be equally argued that atheism requires knowledge of theism to have something to not believe in. Lack of knowledge about theism would make you an agnostic, one who “doesn’t know.” By the same logic, lack of knowledge about gnosis, or lack of knowledge about knowledge, would create a fourth category, “None of the above,” which would include rocks, trees, stars and babies, which I would think appropriate, as it seems silly to call a rock an atheist, which you would have to by his definition. And 2) you can’t get away with calling all babies atheists—that is entirely the point of baptism right after birth, to bring these unthinking creatures into the arms of God and to make them theists, not atheists, by default.
  • p. 21: “From the mere fact that a person is an atheist, one cannot infer that this person subscribes to any particular positive beliefs.” This, in my view, is the major inherent flaw of atheism. It takes away beliefs, but offers nothing to fill the void. It is simple negation. This is a horrible thing to do to a person: to remove their beliefs and then to leave them empty, with no purpose or meaning or direction. I’ve been there; it’s not fun. I had to go through it, being the philosopher himself. Most people don’t need it, nor would they be likely to find their own way out. Theism, by itself, does imply a set of morals and values and reasons and answers, which vary according to which branch or sect you subscribe to. There is no such thing as simple theism. Atheism isn’t even an “-ism”—it’s the negation of others’ beliefs. Simple negation is not enough. Atheism must be only one facet of a new belief system.
  • Can we honestly analyze atheism without a deep analysis of why people believe in God? And yet he seems unwilling to do so, instead focusing on the reasons why they’re wrong. P. 24–25: Let us all now cry at the unfairness of the world. Bah. Let’s ask why, with an uncritical eye, these people behave this way. We know they’re wrong; let’s discover why they insist on this wrongness. “…these are the issues to which a theist must address himself if he wishes to confront the challenge of atheism.” And yet this is not true! These are the questions that the theist knows must not be raised, or confronted directly, for he fears the answers. This sentence of his presumes that his opponents are rational, and yet “…the average believer…was persuaded to believe for emotional, not intellectual reasons,” and “is impervious to arguments against the existence of a supernatural being, regardless of how meticulous and carefully reasoned these arguments may be.” Not the picture of a rational person who would respond to a challenge of this nature.
  • p. 26: He seems to believe that the simple absence of religion—the absence of any beliefs at all, in fact—would be better than the existence of theistic religion; that theism is inherently almost completely evil. I say that it is not enough to merely deny God; one must consider why theism exists, how it is used, how it is useful, and what its good as well as bad points are. To deny that religion has any good points is to call humanity as a whole incredibly stupid. I’m sorry, but we’ve lasted too long and done too well to be so stupid. There must be reasons. [7/11/2013 3:21 PM Rereading that page now, I no longer see it that way. He seems to be suggesting that if we got rid of supernatural belief, we would be forced to come up with better answers (“By severing any possible appeal to the supematural—which, in terms of human knowledge, means the unknowable-atheism demands that issues be dealt with through reason and human understanding; they cannot be sloughed-off onto a mysterious god”). Then again, I’ve only reread bits; the entire book up until this point may give a different impression.]

Saturday, December 27, 1997


        Crucial question: How to get the most value out of the information I take in? Certainty: There is too much information, too many books, to ever dream of being able to read it all, or even some significant portion. Therefore, if you wish to take in all it is important for you to know, what you actually read or absorb must be distilled and of high value and quality. How to accomplish this? How even to determine what extant books are of worthy quality, let alone how to compile and condense what exists into more meaningful format?

Margin note: How to live

We need to teach ourselves how to live in this world we’ve created.

The Art of War (Part 2)


  • p. 32 (I’m skipping back and forth): “Despite incessant barbarian incursions and major military threats throughout its history, Imperial China was little inclined to pursue military solutions to aggression—except during the ill-fated expansionistic policies of the Former Han dynasty, or under dynamic young rulers, such as T’ang Tai-tsung, during the founding years of a dynasty. Rulers and ministers preferred to believe in the myth of cultural attraction whereby their vastly superior Chinese civilization, founded upon Virtue and reinforced by opulent material achievements, would simply overwhelm the hostile tendencies of the uncultured.”
    • He [Sawyer] seems a bit disdainful at the ancient Chinese rulers’ disdain for warfare. I’m not sure I agree. Wars of defense can be expensive. Wars of conquest can be very lucrative if you win, but what do you get if you win a war of defense? A bunch of dead bodies on your land and your kingdom safe for another year. Their policies seem to have worked; why disparage them?                                                                                       

Friday, December 26, 1997


        Jim, you must remember, and keep remembering, that most of your life will always be thinking. There is no stopping point. There is no place where you are done and can finally act. Action must take place within and amidst the thought.

The Art of War


Notes on Ralph Sawyer’s translation of Sun-tsu’s The Art of War:


  • I’m not so sure I want a quite so scholarly translation at this point. I’m only peripherally interested in ancient Chinese history; I’m primarily interested in military and philosophical value. For instance: I don’t really care, at this point, who Lord Shang and Han Fei-tzu are. Maybe I should just avoid the notes. Perhaps I should find a contemporary military translation, leaving out nonessential Chinese history and personages, and focusing on how these doctrines apply to modern philosophy and warfare.


Screw it; I skipped to the actual text. The front notes were becoming impenetrable.


  • I pretty much agree with everything so far (p. 168; p. 2 of the text)—although again, I’d like a more Western viewpoint; I don’t really feel like dealing with Yin and Yang and Heaven and Tao. But I do have an issue on p. 168: Sun-tzu says that “If they are rested, force them to exert themselves.” I have an alternate viewpoint, that says “If they (the enemy) are weary, force them to exert themselves. But if they are rested, consider letting them rest…and rest…and rest until they become bored and unready and stir-crazy and neglectful of maintenance and generally complacent—and then attack.”
  • Always consider, with every action, what you teach your enemy. Not what the enemy may learn—that’s simple counterintelligence. But what you teach him—about how you fight, about your competence, about your methods, and about war.
  • Never forget—either when considering your own forces or when doing battle with your enemy—that war always boils down to privates and new sergeants and lieutenants—to those young men on the battlefield who actually operate the equipment and do the actual fighting. It is they who actually fight the war, and they, in the end, who collectively decide the outcome. If their morale is low, if they are complacent, if their fear controls them, if they are incompetent or poorly trained or do not understand the objective or how to accomplish it, you will lose, no matter how intelligent, well-trained and motivated your senior leaders are, or how detailed, thought-out or well-made your battle plans are, or how superior your military is in equipment or numbers. (Actually, numbers can save you here, if you are willing to waste your near-useless men. Given working equipment and no way to escape, men will fight, as well as they can.)        So when considering the previous point, remember that nearly everything your enemy’s young fighters know about war they will learn from you. Try and teach them all the wrong lessons, if you can, so that they learn the right ones only disastrously.


Tʜɪs ɪs ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴏᴄᴛʀɪɴᴇ ᴏғ ᴍʏ ʟɪғᴇ


  • Above all, especially in warfare, understand why you do what you do. Blindly following any doctrine could lead to disaster.* Only perfect—utterly perfect—doctrine will not lead you astray under any circumstances—and how will you know it is perfect if you do not understand it?

Thursday, December 25, 1997

Journal Purpose

Look: what am I doing here?: I really liked how Phaedrus took extensive, rigorous notes on the philosophical texts he read. I think that it would benefit me to do the same.